Ben Philpott

Senior Reporter, State Politics and Policy

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT. He’s also co-host of The Ticket 2016, a podcast produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune covering the presidential election. Ben has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and has been named Radio Journalist of the Year by the Houston Press club four times.

Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

Ways to Connect

Image by KUT News

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says the state has more money to spend. 

In a letter to Texas lawmakers today, Combs says sales tax receipts in recent months had increased enough for her to raise her pervious revenue estimate by 300-million dollars for the current budget.  She also increased the amount of money lawmakers have to spend in the next budget. 

The increase helps a little but does not make a huge dent in the multi-billion dollar budget hole.

Photo by KUT News

Former Speaker Tom Craddick fell to the ground during a House Transportation committee hearing this morning at the Capitol.  The Dallas Morning News is reporting Craddick was at the meeting to lay out his bill banning texting while driving when he apparently fainted and fell to the ground.

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

It's not often that state lawmakers admit they don't like the bill they just filed, but that's exactly what State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) did today after filing HB 2485.  The bill is accompanied by a spreadsheet that shows how drastic cuts to public education would affect individual school districts.

"We'll be laying out a budget that cuts $9.8 billion out of the schools.  But that's a number that doesn't mean anything to a legislator unless they know that means you're taking between $500 and $2,500 dollars per WADA (weighted average daily attendance) out of their local district," Hochberg said.

picture by KUT

The Texas House easily passed a controversial sonogram/abortion bill on 3rd reading today.  The bill now goes back to the Senate.  Senators there can either agree with the House changes to the bill or ask for a House/Senate conference committee to hammer out the differences.  The committee is the most likely route.  The bill would require all women to view a sonogram and hear the fetus heartbeat before having

Picture by KUT News

Make sure to get outside today.  Sure it's a little cold this morning.  But yesterday's strong winds are gone and we'll get into the lower 70's today.  But before you head's some info on what's been going on in Texas to start your day:

City of Hutto


The Mayor of Hutto has passed away.  The city says Mayor David Begier died last night from complications related to heart bypass surgery.  Begier was first elected mayor of Hutto in May 2009.  "He was known in the community.  He's going to be missed tremendously, " said Hutto city manager Edward Broussard, "there's a large hole in people's hearts this morning as they’re finding out the news."  

Broussard said one of the mayor's major accomplishments was getting Temple College to agree to open a campus in Hutto.    Mayor David Begier was 69 years old.

Picture by KUT News

Here's a story that's been around the world and back again in just a couple of days.  

Google Maps

Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano...the middle of March in Texas sees the migration of college students to the coast for some fun,  sun and relaxation during spring break.  One other yearly tradition is the Department of Public Safety warning the young partiers to keep it all north of the boarder border.

Picture courtesy The Texas Tribune

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Governor Rick Perry didn't fair very well in a Presidential straw poll taken over the weekend at a Tea Party event in Arizona. 

Photo courtesy Texas Attorney General

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has weighed in on President Obama's decision to no longer have the U.S. Justice Department defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act banning recognition of same-sex marriage. 

Picture courtesy DC Comics

Mayor Lee Leffingwell's state of the city address this morning focused on Austin's current challenges and, as the mayor described them, opportunities that lay ahead.  He pointed to the positive things like the city's unemployment rate, which is lower than the state and national average but not low enough for most people's liking.

picture courtesy Sen. Van de Putte

Man...I had a GREAT idea for a story on Texas Lawmakers giving advice to lawmakers in Wisconsin and Indiana who are dealing with legislative walkouts.  BUT - Sam Stein over at the Huffington Post beat me to it (by a week...darn it!).  You may remember in 2003 Democrats in the Texas House fled to Okl

Image courtesy of the US Census Bureau

Our good friends and political reporting partners, The Texas Tribune, have started breaking down the U.S. Census data released today.  

The new numbers show the Hispanic population in Texas increased by 42 percent since 2000, and the group now makes up 38 percent of the population.

Texas’ population is now 25,145,561. That's a 4,293,741 increase from 2000’s figure, a 20.6 percent change.

Picture Courtesy The Texas Tribune

A state lawmaker tasked with investigating an election challenge in a Travis County House District says Donna Howard (D-Austin) is the winner by 4 votes over her GOP challenger Dan Neil.  Howard won re-election to the Texas House on Election Day by 16 votes.  A recount lowered the margin to 12.

Picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

House Speaker Joe Straus has released his list of committees for the 82nd Texas Legislative Session.  The list has dozens of changes from the last session.  Which was expected after Republicans gained 25 seats since 2009 and now have a supermajority in the House.  Democrats lost chairmanships on high profile committees like Ways and Means (where tax bills originate) and Transportation (which is were road bills originate).

Here's the list and demographic breakdown:

Sunday Morning Brief

Feb 6, 2011
picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

You know what they say, if you don't like the weather in Texas...just wait a minute.  After 72-hours below freezing in Austin, we got into the upper 60's Saturday with another nice day ahead today.  BUT, we've got freezing temperatures and rain (or sleet or whatever) in the forecast this week.  So, don't pack your heavy coats yet.

On to the news of the day:


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart made a stop in Texas a few weeks back to tape a story on the Texas House Speaker's race.  The reason for the trip was the inclusion of some anti-semitic messages in the campaign to oust current Speaker Joe Straus, who is Jewish.  The segment aired Thursday night.  

Austin's state Representative Elliott Naishtat, who's also Jewish, was interviewed for the story but sadly didn't make the final cut.

Steve Carlton

This Sunday's Super Bowl will showcase two of the league's premier quarterbacks: Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh's two-time champion Ben Roethlisberger. But along with that, Super Bowl XLV will also feature former Texas Longhorns and players who made names for themselves in the Lone Star State. Sunday's big game, played in Dallas Cowboys Stadium (or "Jerry World", as some people refer to it) will be a homecoming for some of the players.

Here's our list of Texas football players looking forward to the game of their lives this Sunday.

Picture by KUT News

The national unemployment rate dropped from 9.4% to 9% in January.  But the country only added 36,000 jobs.  The decrease came in part because of an increase people not looking for work, what the U.S. Department of Labor calls "marginally attached and discouraged" workers.  The manufacturing and retail sectors were added the most jobs.  Construction, transportation and warehousing shed the most jobs.

Picture by KUT News

The Texas Senate has added its take on the 2012-2013 Texas budget to the ongoing debate.  The Senate's version spends $158.7 billion.  That's $2.3 billion more than the Texas House's version of the bill.  The additional money includes about $500 million more for both the public education and higher education budgets.